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Continental Ichnology: Using Terrestrial and Freshwater Trace Fossils for Environmental and Climatic Interpretations

Stephen T. Hasiotis
Stephen T. Hasiotis
Address: University of Kansas, Department of Geology, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd., 120 Lindley Hall, Lawrence, KS 66045-7613;
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January 01, 2002


The type, distribution, and tiering of continental trace fossils (ichnofossils) are useful tools for deciphering continental environments in both outcrop and core. This atlas presents the latest ichnological concepts and provides a comprehensive photocatalogue of nearly the entire suite of major terrestrial and freshwater trace fossils that geoscientists will encounter. The atlas is separated into two sections: 1) concepts and fundamental principles that explain how terrestrial and freshwater trace fossil behavior is interpreted and used to define environments of deposition; and 2) a photocatalogue of outcrop and core examples of continental trace fossils with explanations and idealized line drawings.

Section one formulates fundamental concepts of continental ichnology by examining the life cycle of organisms in modern depositional systems. It discusses some of the shortcomings in the current philosophy of ichnology and elaborates on the differences between continental and marine organisms and resultant differences in their traces. The report illustrates how the controls on behavior and distribution of continental organisms can be applied to define continental environments. An ichnological framework for continental systems is presented that is based on analogy to specific environmental controls operating in modern terrestrial and freshwater environments. The framework uses examples of modern and ancient trace fossils to define specific environments. Alluvial, lacustrine, eolian, and transitional depositional settings form potential ichnofacies, which are defined in detail by their ichnologic composition.

Section two is a photocatalogue of outcrop and core examples of continental trace fossils. Each type of trace fossil is presented with a description, interpretation of the architecture and surficial burrow morphologies, geologic range, trophic classification, and environmental and climatic settings. The trace fossils are illustrated with idealized line drawings as seen in outcrop and in core. Color photographs are used to show the trace fossils as hand specimens, in outcrop, and core from different geologic formations and ages. Many of the continental traces occur in paleosols where the color differences between the trace fossils and surrounding matrix accentuate the trace fossil’s morphology. The combination of text, line drawings, photographs, and figure explanations allows the user to determine what the trace fossil he or she is working with as well as what the paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic settings were of the accompanying strata. The last two pages in Section 2 (pages 131–132) are summary sheets of the trace fossil and contain representative color photographs and line drawings of each trace fossil in the photoglossary. It is organized by the orientation of trace fossils in outcrop (or core), and the morphologic complexity of the traces. The summary sheets can also be referred to by the user to key a trace fossil morphology into a particular section in the photoglossary. These sheets also include a list of abbreviations of continental trace fossils to be used when measuring sections in the field or describing core at an offsite location. A separate, laminated reference sheet of these two pages is available from SEPM (Product 55004). The laminated reference sheet allows you to have your guide to continental trace fossils readily available wherever you go.

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SEPM Short Course Notes

Continental Trace Fossils

Stephen T. Hasiotis
Stephen T. Hasiotis
University of Kansas, Department of Geology, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd. 120 Lindley Hall, Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7613, U.S.A. e-mail:
Search for other works by this author on:
SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2002




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